I have read a few co-authored books before, but never one like We Are Not Like Them. This is a story of best-friends Riley and Jen. Riley is Black and her chapters were written by Christine Pride, who is Black and Jen is white, her chapters were by Jo Piazza, who is white. This gives it a really unique hook and between them, these co-authors tell a really powerful story.
Opening sentence: When the bullets hit him, first his arm, then his stomach, it doesn’t feel like he’d always imagined it would.
What is We Are Not Like Them about?
Based in Philadelphia, both women’s lives are turned upside down when an unarmed 14-year-old Black boy, Justin, is shot by a white policeman. Riley and Jen have been friends since they were children. Growing up together, their different skin colour didn’t affect their friendship at all:
It’s funny to me how our friendship, so obvious to us, has always confused other people.
Their friendship faces the ultimate test when it turns out it was Jen’s husband, Kevin who, he claims accidently, shot Justin.
Riley is a news reporter on the local TV channel. She has ambitions to become lead anchor and is given the job of covering Justin’s shooting. This places her in a very awkward position. Both on a personal level and as a Black women with the narrative that plays out, due to the shooting.
A layered story
As well as the main storyline, both Riley and Jen have back stories that make them feel so rounded as characters. Jen’s trying to conceive a baby through IVF and Riley is dealing with her ex coming back on the scene. Ordinarily they’d be there for each other through all these things but their relationship is pushed to its limits.
There were some great secondary characters too, including Gigi, Riley’s grandmother who also had a close relationship with Jen and, along with the lead characters, gave this book its heart.
The issue of white privilege is explored really well here. Something that I have a much clearer grasp on since reading Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, the story shows how Jen might be facing a lot of personal issues but she will never be held back or negatively judged due to her skin colour.
Are you kidding me? It’s always about race, Jen. That’s what I’d wanted to scream back at her. She may have the luxury of pretending that it isn’t, but I don’t.
We Are Not Like Them is raw (really emotional in parts, obviously given its topic), relevant and so readable. I was fully invested in this story and while each character had their own voice, it never felt like a book written by two people. By that I mean the authors had gelled their styled in a wonderful way, while powerfully conveying each perspective and calling out the race issues that are still so prevalent in society – and that need to urgently change.
- Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC;
- Get your copy of We Are Not Like Them here;
- Published by HQ 5th October 2021;
- 336 pages;
- My rating: